The Louis Cruises Group has launched regular international cruise services from the Kochi (Cochin) Port in Kerala, in southern India.
The cruise vessel, M V Aquamarine, initially operates services to Maldives and Colombo.
M V Aquamarine is the first international cruise ship to operate service from a port in India.
The cruise service from Kochi offers “excellent Indo-European hospitality to Indian and international tourists,” a statement from the Mediterranean-based Louis Cruises said.
Louis Cruises, one of the world’s biggest cruise operators, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Cochin Port Trust for launching the cruise service, which was inaugurated by India’s Minister for Tourism Kumari Selja.
The cruise service has been started the Kochi-Maldives-Kochi, and Kochi-Colombo-Kochi to services mainly to attract the rather well-to-do Indian middle class.
Kochi is the first non-European base for Louis Cruises, which has a fleet of fleet of 12 ships, according to Oneil Khosa, managing director of Louis Cruises India.
M V Aquamarine is also the first cruise liner that targets the Indian tourism sector – with tour packages starting from Rs 5,000 per person per day for a 3-night tour. The rates will go up to Rs 90,000 for the Royal Suite.
Launching the Louis Cruises’ service from Kochi, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said that the cruise company has “rightly identified” Cochin Port, which has successfully handled events like the Volvo Ocean Race India Stopover in December 2008.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Report on worldwide cruise shipping activities, Kumari Selja said, the demand for cruise reached about 10 million trips in 2000. Of this, North America accounted for nearly two-thirds of the global demand.
A study commissioned by the India’s Ministry of Tourism on ‘Cruise Tourism Potential and Strategy’ has shown that India’s cruise tourism potential “revolved around the basic fact that India is an enchanting, historical and beautiful destination,” the minister said.